The Ultimate Bangkok Durian Guide: What You Need To Know About the Stinky Fruit

By Mark Wiens 80 Comments

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Creamy. Sweet. Buttery. Ambrosial.

The list of appealing adjectives could go on forever when describing the king of fruits.

Yet all word based descriptions fall wholly short of coming even remotely close to the real divine sensation that can only result from a buttery lump of durian.

When that utter creaminess fills your mouth, words become meaningless, all struggles are left behind, and life in general takes a turn for the better.

Though I’m more than a little passionate about durian fruit (and many are on my side), others despise the innocent natural produce and even somehow find it offensive.

There’s no denying: the spiky durian is unbelievably unique.

The beautiful spiky durian fruit!
The beautiful spiky durian fruit!

What is Durian?

Durian is a Southeast Asian fruit that’s most popular in Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, and the Philippines.

Many durian trees are large and can grow anywhere from 20 – 50 meters in height. There are many different species and cultivars of durian, some with a more pungently distinct flavor while others are calmer and less strong.

Though I have seen a photo of a thornless durian, the most distinct characteristic of any durian is its lethal thorny outer shell. Rather than a fruit, a durian looks more like a medieval war club – just one of the many reasons it’s so enchanting!

Wrapped within the dangerous exterior is soft creamy flesh that’s normally yellowish or cream in color and firm to soft depending on ripeness. Each pod of the fruit flesh is sectioned off in separate segments.

Durian is most notorious for is its smell.

What some describe as rotting socks, fermented garlic and onions, or just straight up barf, to me is the sweetest perfume known to man. But somehow I just love odd edibles durian, stink beans, and wood apples.

The aroma is so strong, it can linger for days, making durian illegal in many air conditioned or public buildings in Southeast Asia.

A massive, not so pretty 10 kilo durian!
A massive, not so pretty 10 kilo durian!

Quick Facts

  • Durian season in Thailand is from around April through August
  • However, durian in Bangkok can be found year round
  • Durian is banned from many hotels and public facilities
  • Durian is both loved and hated by many
  • Durian is also known as the “king of fruits”
  • Mangosteen, known as the “queen of fruits,” complements durian perfectly – they should be eaten together
  • Durian makes your body hot, for reals!
  • Important: Don’t eat durian and drink alcohol, due to raising blood pressure it’s a bad combo. Don’t do it.
I just took a bite of an extremely custardy delicious durian!
I just took a bite of an extremely custardy delicious durian!

What Does Durian Taste Like?

Heaven.

Ok, not to everyone.

But ever since I took my first bite of durian in Malaysia, followed by a durian buffet, I was addicted.

To me, and other durian lovers, it tastes like sweet creamy butter. It’s like custard made from colostrum, smooth as silk, sweeter than honey, and searching for a bite is worth more than relaxing on a pristine beach in Zanzibar.

The riper the fruit (like I most enjoy it), it can be a bit mushier, and even include a bitter tinge that’s absolutely delightful. I simply just love odds edibles, stink beans and wood apples,,

Though I have zero negative things to say about durian, I’ll try my hardest to describe the other side of the story.

Some feel that durian has a repulsive flavor that falls somewhere in between a rotting carcass and blue cheese. The texture is what gets many, a mushiness that some find hard to stomach.

But that’s not to turn you off, you MUST try durian for yourself!

3 Kinds of Durian (ทุเรียน)

ทุเรียนหมอนทอง
Durian Monthong – Golden Pillow (ทุเรียนหมอนทอง)

Though there are hundreds of durian cultivars throughout Thailand and Southeast Asia, there are 3 main varieties that are abundantly available.

When you’re out exploring Bangkok, look out for these delicious durians.

1. Monthong – Golden Pillow (ทุเรียนหมอนทอง)

Monthong, which translates to golden pillow in Thai, is probably the most widespread durian in Thailand; It’s also the most famous exported variety.

If you stumble into durian in another part of the world, like North America or even China, it may be a Thai Golden Pillow.

The fruit is large, often 3 – 5 kilos per fruit and is characterized by large triangular spikes. The flesh of the fruit is very meaty and can be considered one of the least pungent in both aroma and flavor.

It’s rich and sweet.

The chunks of durian that emerge from a monthong are gigantic, honestly, some are the size of personal baguettes.

The largest monthong durian I’ve ever bought in Thailand was over 10 kilos.

After spotting it at a vendor at Samrong Market, my friend Joel and I had to purchase it merely because of its huge size. Unfortunately, it was watery and not very good, but it sure was fun!

If you’re a first time durian sampler, you may want to go with monthong.

Price: About 50 – 100 THB per kilo

ทุเรียนชะนี
Durian Chanee – Gibbon (ทุเรียนชะนี)

2. Chanee – Gibbon (ทุเรียนชะนี)

Chanee is more pungent, softer, more buttery, and stronger in nearly every way than a monthong. Yet at the same time, for myself personally, it’s not quite as rich and I can eat more volume of chanee than monthong.

The flesh is often eaten very ripe, when it turns to a gorgeous golden yellow. The riper a chanee gets, the stronger the luscious aroma becomes. The meat turns bitter adding an extra wonderful dimension to the sweetness.

Price: About 50 – 80 THB per kilo

ทุเรียนก้านยาว
Durian Kanyao – Long Stem (ทุเรียนก้านยาว)

3. Kanyao – Long Stem (ทุเรียนก้านยาว)

Kanyao, or the long stem durian, is normally the most expensive and high class durian to eat in Bangkok. If you have a chance to eat kanyao, take it!

It’s medium in size, and distinct because it’s normally quite round like a volleyball, not in in rounded segments like a monthong.

The flesh is very sweet, incredibly creamy and even when overripe it doesn’t become too mushy.

I’m undecided as to wether chanee or kanyao is better; Both are wildly delicious.

There’s also the famed “Nonthaburi Kanyao,” the most well known durian in Thailand that can fetch $200 per fruit. I’m still waiting for my first sample!

Price: About 80 – 150 THB per kilo

Sticky rice and durian - this is homemade!
Sticky rice and durian – this is homemade!

Ways to Eat Durian

Here are the most common forms of eating durian in Bangkok.

1. Straight From the Shell

In my opinion, durian flesh right out of the shell, is by far the best way to eat durian. That being said, anything flavored with durian is also great, but can’t compare to the fruit in its most natural form.

2. Durian and Sticky Rice

This is what I consider to be one of the best Thai desserts, a bowl of sweet sticky rice topped with ripe durian and smothered in sweet coconut cream.

3. Durian Ice Cream

Ice cream is fantastic, durian ice cream is mouthwatering!

4. Durian Fruit Roll

There’s this thing in Thailand for the durian super addicts called durian guan. Basically it’s preserved durian wrapped into a tube. The flavor is quite strong and the texture is about like sticky toothpaste.

5. Durian Chips (Crisps)

Fried durian chips lose all their distinct durian flavor. If you find that you don’t like durian, you’ll probably enjoy durian chips; And if you do enjoy durian, you’ll like them too. They taste similar to fruity potato chips with no overwhelming flavor.

6. Durian Pastries

Durian cake and durian flavored pastries are common. They normally include real fruit puréed so they pack in some amazing durian power.

Where to Eat Durian in Bangkok:

Durian cart vendor on the streets of Bangkok
Durian cart vendor on the streets of Bangkok

1. Streets Everywhere

During durian season, which normally goes from April to August annually, durian is everywhere. You’ll see market stalls set up all over the city with piles of durian as well as countless pushcart vendors hawking their prized collection along the streets.

During the peak of the season, pickup trucks stashed full of the cash crop, slowly patrol neighborhoods while announcing to everyone they are selling durian through a loudspeaker.

Durian at Or Tor Kor Market
Durian at Or Tor Kor Market

2. Or Tor Kor Market

Year round, Or Tor Kor Market in Bangkok is one of the best places to eat durian. Most of what’s sold is kanyao, but you can find all three varieties.

The great thing about the market is that vendors take extreme care in peeling their durians and arranging them for display. Grab a conveniently pre-peeled styrofoam plate of durian, unwrap it from the pastic covering, and sit down on a clean bench to immediately devour!

Durian in Bangkok's Chinatown Yaowarat
Durian in Bangkok’s Chinatown Yaowarat

3. Chinatown Yaowarat

Yaowarat, Chinatown Bangkok, is another place to find top quality durian throughout the year. Normally you can find a few street cart vendors as well as the most beautiful truck in the world packed with durian.

Though not in Bangkok, the annual Chathaburi world durian festival takes place annually and attracts a great crowd of durian lovers.

Monthong durian at the fruit buffet
Monthong durian at the fruit buffet

Also, if you want to take a Bangkok day trip to devour as much fruit as possible, consider visiting Suan Supatra farm to indulge in the all you can eat fruit buffet. It was sensational.

One last piece of advice…

Press testing a kanyao (long stem) durian in Bangkok.
Press testing a kanyao (long stem) durian in Bangkok.

The Press Test

Pressing the flesh of the fruit to test its ripeness is both accepted and necessary in the process of shopping for durian.

Firm means less pungent, while soft means intensely flavorful. If you’re trying for the first time, I’d recommend a firmer durian, and if you like it, the softer the better.

There you have it, everything you need to know to get out there and explore durian. Eating durian is what I consider one of the top things to do while you’re in Bangkok!

And while you’re at it, have a bite for me too!



80 comments. I'd love to hear from you!

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  • Ayi

    4 months ago

    Man you have it so good there. In China, we don’t consistently get as much variety in Durian as you do in Thailand, and the cost is around 200 Baht / Kilo for MonThong. I do prefer Kanyao when we can get it, but the price can reach 300 Baht / kilo.

  • lisa elliott

    8 months ago

    Mark, Do you have any plan to organize durian farms tour? Since you do know so much about durian I thought it would be great to visit durian farms with the expert.

    • Mark Wiens

      8 months ago

      Hey Lisa, thank you very much. Unfortunately due to my schedule I haven’t been able to, but perhaps if anything clears up I could, and I will let you know. Thanks!

  • brett

    9 months ago

    Mr. Mark Hi my name is Brett. I live in California, I absolutely love the durian fruit. I heard You and a friend bought a 10kilo fruit was wondering if I could send You money to buy the fruit and ship it to me if You See one that big again? I will check state laws first we do get them fresh here in Cali but not close to that size. Thanks

  • Mh

    9 months ago

    I accidentally landed at Or For Kor market yesterday and tried the Kan Yao durian, and have forever now changed my mind (and snobbishness) that Malaysian durian is the best.. The Thai durian was SOO good! I wished I had read this blog beforehand and would have made a more concerted effort to go on a durian hunt! Thank you for your research- will use this for future reference!

    • Mark Wiens

      9 months ago

      Hey Mh, so glad you enjoyed it. And I love Malaysian durian too!

  • Huong Nguyen

    11 months ago

    Hi, thank for your article about durian. I like durian very much. I’m going to have a vacation in Bangkok in February. I wonder if there is durian at that time.
    thank you!

    • Mark Wiens

      11 months ago

      Awesome to hear that Huong, glad you love durian!

  • Rani

    2 years ago

    Love it Mark! I was actually researching a story on Durian…I guess I found my host. Will connect soon:)

  • Suphot Laohathiensin

    2 years ago

    Mark,
    Thank you very much for all the info you blog about Bangkok and Thai foods, it so useful. I will be in Bangkok for 14 days for the first in 40 some years. I am anxious an excited.
    Thanks a million for your good and very informative work.
    Tom

  • Lucas Miller

    2 years ago

    Mark, excellent article ! I also read your other article about the beyond organic durian farm.

    Say, I want to visit Bangkok in late November, and I am huge fan of Durian. Huge. Do you know if I can find any that late in the season ? any insight will dramatically increase the happiness in my life. Thanks !

  • gene

    2 years ago

    I wish Andrew Zimmern would give this king of fruit a second and a third try, he would fall in love with it.

    • Mark Wiens

      2 years ago

      Hey Gene, I don’t know how he could not like it!

  • Lindsay

    3 years ago

    This is such a great guide to durian in Bangkok, Mark. I came on it again and was impressed all over again – even after all my durian adventuring.

  • Carm

    4 years ago

    Wonderful! This is by far the most comprehensive guide I’ve read about durian and how to eat it. A lot of people surely do not like it but I also found it to be quite good. I had it 2 years ago in Malaysia (although I always had durian candy as a child) where farmers just park their vans on the side of the road and sell from there.

    • Mark Wiens

      4 years ago

      Hey Carm, excellent glad you enjoy durian too. Actually my first time to try durian years ago was also in Malaysia, and it was from one of those vans, love at first bite!

  • Josias Lopes

    4 years ago

    On my check list of things to try in Thailand next January…

    Thank’s for the tip Mark.

  • Anthony

    4 years ago

    Hey Mark,
    Where can we find the durian ice cream you did a video on?

  • Ivana

    4 years ago

    Mark, thanks a lot for the super informative article.
    I’ve tried durian first and for now the only time at Or Tor Kor Market and it was one of the most delicious surprise for me in Thailand so far!! I’m definitely in the Durian Club :))

    • Mark Wiens

      4 years ago

      Awesome to hear this Ivana, I’m so glad that you enjoyed the durian, wonderful!!

  • Zara @ Backpack ME

    4 years ago

    Yesterday I smelt it. Today, I’m going for it here in Bangkok.
    One step at a time.. and if it doesn’t taste like HEAVEN, as you say, I’ll come back and leave another comment!! 😉

    • Mark Wiens

      4 years ago

      Awesome to hear that Zara, I hope you loved it!

  • Ralphius

    4 years ago

    I found it so funny, I met lot of western people here in Thailand and they all had one thing in common.. they did NOT like Durian!!

    Is it really the racial difference with our tastebuds? I really enjoyed the Durian (Lucky Me), I totally understand your love for the fruit.

    Keep blogging and uploading videos!

    Ralphius

    • Mark Wiens

      4 years ago

      Hey Ralphius, ahah, it is pretty common for foreigners not to like durian, but I think it’s mostly because they have he wrong initial mentality. Glad you LOVE durian too!

  • Developer

    5 years ago

    I’ve encountered the Durian in Indian, and despite my best efforts to ignore the smell and try to take into account everyones praises of this strange fruit….I failed.

    • Mark Wiens

      5 years ago

      Ha, that’s alright, maybe if you try it again you’ll like it!

  • Thomas

    5 years ago

    Great article Mark. For the prices quoted, are they include the shell or just the meat portion? Like 100 baht per kilo, is that for the whole fruit? Thanks.

    • Mark Wiens

      5 years ago

      Hi Thomas, yes, that’s for the entire fruit. They weigh it with shell on.

  • Rocky L Singapore/Bangkok

    5 years ago

    Durian , Ah ! Smell like shit taste like HEAVEN ! its zee best way to describe zee King of Fruits.
    So do try it , you’ll luv zee experience! NEVER consume alcohol & durian simultaneously – cud be fatal ,,,,, its true,,,,

    • Mark Wiens

      5 years ago

      Hey Rocky, great to hear you love durian too. Everyone needs to try durian, I agree!

  • Eddy

    5 years ago

    Hi Mark,
    Great article. Do you think I can buy and eat durian in Taling Chan Floating Market in Bangkok? I hope to do that in my first visit to Bangkok in February/March 2013. Thanks.

    • Mark Wiens

      5 years ago

      Hey Eddy, it’s possible, but I’m not completely sure. Durian season starts somewhere around April, so you’d have a better chance then. If you don’t find durian at Taling Chan, head over to Or Tor Kor market (near Chatuchak Market) if you have a chance.

  • Noel

    5 years ago

    Great article, Mark! I couldn’t have written a better one even though I have had durian my whole life. It’s not my favourite fruit but I do like it once in a while, the creamier the better. I also noticed that there are some species of durians here on the Borneo island that you don’t get in Thailand. When you come here next time, I’ll bring you to try them 🙂

    • Mark Wiens

      5 years ago

      Hey Noel, awesome, thank you very much, I’m looking forward to trying those Borneo varieties!

  • Oceana | Barefoot Beach Blonde

    5 years ago

    I want to like durian, I really do, but I find that the smell completely turns me off. Such a shame because I know that I would like it, and I spent so much time around durian flavoured goodies when I lived in Indo, but it just isn’t for me.
    Great article though, I don’t think I’ve ever read so many interesting durian facts!! I wasn’t even aware there was more than one type…

    • Mark Wiens

      5 years ago

      Hey Oceana, thanks so much for reading this article. Even though you can’t handle it, I’m glad to hear you’ve tried it and want to enjoy it – that’s great. Perhaps sometime in the future you’ll just all of a sudden get over the aroma and be able to eat durian?!! I’ve heard about this one Thai scientist that developed a scentless durian – that might be the one!

  • Arti

    5 years ago

    It looks a bit like Jackfruit, is it? Sounds a very interesting fruit from the way you describe it!!!

  • Ayngelina

    5 years ago

    In the Philippines they had tons of signs with durians with an X through them to tell people they were not allowed. Do you see them as well?

    • Mark Wiens

      5 years ago

      Hey Ayngelina, yes, occasionally, mostly in air conditioned public vehicles and hotels there are no durian signs. But open air transportation and other places are usually fine. Even in lots of malls and supermarkets they frequently sell durian.

  • Dan

    5 years ago

    Hey Mark,
    It took me two years to get over the smell and then try Durian when I work at the U.S. Embassy in Thailand several years ago. Now I eat it in everything, ice cream, sticky rice, candy, etc. Thanks for the “Great Article!”
    Regards,
    Dan
    Ubon, Thailand

    • Mark Wiens

      5 years ago

      Hey Dan, that’s great to hear you like durian, thanks for sharing and for reading this article!

  • Bama

    5 years ago

    Yum! Even though I live in Indonesia, I think the last time I had durian was more than two years ago. Shame I know. 🙂 But looking at your photos makes me think, “Hey, why should I wait for so long to have another bite of durian?”.

    • Mark Wiens

      5 years ago

      Haha, yes Bama, you should not wait a moment longer – I’m expecting you to get off the computer right now and take a durian break!

    • sully86

      5 years ago

      common bama, rekindle your love affair with the durian

  • Stephanie – The Travel Chica

    5 years ago

    Hmmm… I just learned about Durian on a New York City Food Tour (of all places). And it seemed like a horrible thing to avoid. Now I don’t know what to think!

    • Mark Wiens

      5 years ago

      Hahaha, you must give durian a try Stephanie. I have a feeling you’ll enjoy it! Let me know!

    • Takayuki Kan

      1 year ago

      thanx much ur advice,next time visit to thai,ill try to taste 3ind of drian….japanese

  • lindsay

    5 years ago

    Wow Mark! What a great guide to Thailand. I will definitely be linking to this page when I get our Durian Guide to Thailand up. Thanks!

    • Mark Wiens

      5 years ago

      Hey, thanks so much Lindsay, I appreciate it! Can’t wait to check out your guide to durian for Thailand!

  • Agness

    5 years ago

    I’ve tried Duran fruit not only in Bangkok, but also in Vietnam and Cambodia. All kinds are very delicious ;-). It looks so odd, but tastes really good.

    • Mark Wiens

      5 years ago

      Hey Agness, fantastic to hear that you like durian too! It does definitely look a bit intimidating, but what’s inside is so kind and loving!

  • Katie

    5 years ago

    I heard so much about durian when I was in Thailand and finally got to try it. It was really tasty and different than anything I’ve ever had. Thailand is awesome!

    • Mark Wiens

      5 years ago

      Hey Katie, I agree, it is so unique and different form any other fruit. Glad you got to try it!

  • Chris Little

    5 years ago

    I have a son, 9,who loves any kind of fruit and has a little bit of a different pallat. His friends are now in singapore and tried to much to their disgust. I have a feeling that he would try it and probably like it. Since we are in Seattle you can actually find it at a lot of asian grocery stores.
    Other than outside my house is there a technique to slicing one open to get at the fruit? Do you just cut it in half?

    • Mark Wiens

      5 years ago

      Hey Chris, awesome to hear your son loves fruit, I think he will like durian! Ok, if you buy the fruit whole, then start to open it from the bottom. You can slice it a little from the bottom and then you should be able to rip it apart into the separate segments. Then from there just reach in and grab the pudding from each segment. Let me know how it goes! Enjoy!

      • Chris Little

        5 years ago

        Thanks, we will let you know. I am guessing we won’t see them in Seattle until spring or summer. Which will make it easier to eat outside but we will let you know. He can’t wait to go to the fruit buffet. It is on his bucket list now.

  • sully86

    5 years ago

    mark: awesome article mark.